Australian journalists can’t count, can’t think

Australian journalists often state scary-sounding statistics without taking into account the context, which usually shows that things are about the same or getting better. Is this because they’re sensationalist or stupid?

Sloppy, vague sentences are ‘the new normal’ for Australian newspapers

Australian journalists either no longer know how to write clear, concise and grammatical sentences, or they no longer care. Every day, in ever newspaper in the land, we read sloppy, vague sentences written in the passive voice with hazy attribution and bad grammar. I’m going to pick on one example in particular, but if you…

The ten types of comments on news articles

One major criticism of reality TV shows, especially in the pre-MasterChef era, was they profited from encouraging and rewarding all the worst aspects of human behaviour. I think it’s time we recognised comments on online news and opinion websites have exactly the same problem.

Why South American magic realist novelists shouldn’t write IT case studies

Perched at the top of a towering cliff that plunges into the roiling waters of the North Pacific, at the edge of a teeming rainforest, is the headquarters of Grupo Nacional de Chocolates S.A., a leading manufacturer and distributor of confectionery-based solutions. The ancient, crumbling edifice dating back to the time of the conquistadors houses…

Not so sceptical my brains will fall out

Tim Dean has written a wonderfully reasonable and thoughtful piece on why conservatives are more likely to be climate change sceptics. I am somewhat more suspicious of their motives. As you can imagine, this article provoked a flood of outraged, incendiary, irrational commentary from conservative climate change deniers. Indeed, many climate deniers say their inability…

The media’s credibility has already been nuked

The situation in Fukushima is either a dire, Chernobyl-like disaster that will render vast sections of the Japanese coast uninhabitable for centuries or a minor incident that demonstrates the safety of well designed nuclear power plants. Sometimes both at once, if you believe the media. Journalists, of course, have no idea about how a nuclear…

I do not think it means what you think it means

As computers and internet technology have become mainstream, technology terms have entered the language. But the translation is not always accurate. As a professional pedant, it makes me turn purple the number of times I hear people misusing the following two terms: 1. Hard drive What a lot of people think it means: The box…

Stupid conservative numbers game is no proof of bias

Gavin Atkins’s post on ABC’s The Drum is the latest in a line of conservatives playing stupid numbers games to ‘prove’ that the ABC (or some other media organisation) has an inherent left-wing bias. In fact, all it demonstrates is that Atkins and his fellow cultural warriors do not have the faintest clue about the purpose of journalism.

Population alarmists are always wrong

In recent months, the issue of Australia’s population has become increasingly contentious. But those who advocate unpleasant measures to make our population more ‘sustainable’ are looking at the problem from entirely the wrong angle. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wholeheartedly supported the idea of a ‘big Australia’, with a projected population of 36 million by…

Twitter won’t stop the filter or win the election

The impotent rage many Twits feel about the political-media establishment’s nonchalant treatment of internet censorship is palpable. But the harsh reality is, even if everyone on Twitter thought and voted the same way, it would make no difference to this policy or the election result.

Are they trying to tell me something?

The trick with spam – and some malicious software – is convincing people to open an email, click on a link or something else they wouldn’t normally do. Social engineering, when done well, means getting inside people’s heads and understanding their desires, fears and vulnerabilities. It’s not always done well. For instance, lately I have…